Questions in Search of Answers


It's a funny thing:

For a year or so you couldn't get either the league or the Union to say much of anything with regard to the CBA. Forget getting some answers, they wouldn't tell us enough about it all to ask intelligent questions.

Then all of a sudden, last weekend, you couldn't get any of them to shut the hell up.

On Monday, all of the heavyweights - Goff, Galarcep, Bell, McCarthy, etc. - gave us their opinions

And of course throughout it all, the good burghers of BigSoccer have provided ideas and thoughts both frivolous and profound, inane and deeply insightful .

Yet somehow, despite it all, there are still so many questions that I have not been able to locate answers to that I thought maybe someone out there could take pity on a poor wretch like me and provide some answers.

So here goes; feel free:

1) This whole thing reminds me of those people who buy homes next door to an airport and then lead protest marches on city hall, demanding that something be done about the noise. Well excuse me, but when the Realtor gave you the tour, did you not notice that huge, flat paved area with all the lights behind the back yard?

Similarly, I am having a very hard time getting outraged when a soccer player signs a contract to play in a single entity league with a low salary budget and no free agency and then is angry that he plays in a single entity league with a low salary budget and no free agency.

If this was a league structure that you felt diminished you as a human being, took away your rights and left you emotionally bereft, then why would you grab the pen and sign your name?

2) Everybody knows that the big European leagues pay their players much more handsomely - lavishly - than MLS does or is likely to any time soon.

So why do the 350-odd MLS Players Union members not play over there?

3) Where is it written that when you list "Pro Athlete" under "occupation" on your IRS 1040 form that you automatically deserve to be paid a big old pile of money? Doesn't it have something to do with the sport you play and the league you play it in?

NFL Players make a lot of money because the NFL takes in something like $5 billion a year in revenues. The owners are swimming in money and the players are just taking their cut.

Are MLS players under the impression that the owners are stiffing them on their fair share of the enormous profits they're reaping peddling soccer tickets to Americans?

4) If you look around at the fans attending an MLS game, every single one of them deals with a reality: if the company they work for is doing well then they can go in for their year-end review with the jackass they work for and ask for a little more cash in the old pay envelope.

But if the company they work for isn't profitable they accept that aren't going to get a raise. It's not how the real world works. Most of them are just happy that they aren't being laid off, or having their hours cut or losing their bonus.

With that in mind, are the players aware that MLS attendance went down last year? In fact, without those 30,000 people filling Qwest field 15 times, attendance went off a cliff?

Now you can quibble about the numbers or try to claim a share of whatever S.U.M. money they end up with (which the players did literally nothing to earn, but nobody seems to care; it's money, the owners have it and so, somehow, the players are entitled to some of it) but 10,000 or 12,000 people at a game does not translate into the treasure of Solomons' mines.

So where exactly, other than out of the owners' pockets, will more money come from?

5) I know, I know, "it's not about the money, it's about having "the same rights as players in other countries have".

Good theory. In Saudi Arabia, you can legally smack your wife around if she ticks you off. Why not try that here and then explain to the judge that you just want "the same rights husbands in other countries have"? Good luck.

It's silly. It's irrelevant. It's a nonsense argument.

Nevertheless, let's make two offers:

a) You can have everything you claim really matters to you: guaranteed contracts, a no-trade clause, free agency, the works. In fact, we'll stipulate that all contracts expire on December 1 each year. You can peddle your ass to whomever, change teams once a year, hold an eBay auction for your services. Whatever you like.

But each team will have a salary cap of (cue Dr. Evil) One Million Dollars. Enjoy.

b) You get none of the things you say you want. No free agency, ever. Contracts can be canceled at any time, for any reason. Compared to those "players around the world" whose rights you want to emulate, you'll live in North Korea.

But each team will have a salary cap of $10 million. Senior roster minimum is $200,000. Matching 401k, full family health and dental and a partridge in a pear tree.

So tell me: which one of those are you interested in? The one that gives you what you say you want, or the one that gives you money?

6) So let's cut the crap. It's about money. As Bob Dole used to say "You know it, I know it and the American people know it".

The reason they want free agency isn't for the warm glow of freedom that would ensue, it's because they figure they can cut a better deal if people have to bid against each other for their services.

The reason they want guaranteed contracts isn't because it would make them feel more "respected", it's because they don't want to wake up one day and find out they're no longer getting a paycheck.

But that's something that the rest of us deal with every day, particularly in this economy and even more particularly, as I mentioned, when we work for an outfit that's not making money.

Why should MLS players be immune to the same reality simply because they were born with the ability to kick a ball really well?

7) The woman who cleaned the hotel room you stayed in on your last road trip is probably over 40, supporting a couple kids, on food stamps, has no education worth mentioning and is working 10 hour days, six days a week for $20,000 a year.

Or the guy with the towels who dried off your car last week when you ran it through the car wash, who has a second job tending bar and also helps out when his brother-in-laws' concrete finishing business needs an extra pair of hands. He's busting his ass seven days a week to feed his kids and barely pulling down $30k, including the money he gets under the table.

These are people whose lives are truly screwed and who have little to no hope of anything better. How about we figure out how to get them $88,000 a year?

Why should we get our shorts all wadded up over a 24 year old guy with a college degree making $88,000 a year in return for going to a soccer practice for three hours a day when the hotel maid just had her heat turned off?

One last thing:

The men who've bought into MLS have invested $10 million or $20 million or $30 million on MLS didn't buy a soccer team, they bought a concept. They didn't do it on a whim, they didn't do it because they hoped it would drastically change and they didn't do it so that the employees could tell them how they have to run it.

They used their business judgment, did a lot of due diligence, and decided that investing a large sum of money in the MLS concept made sense for them.

Now along comes a bunch of jocks who are in MLS only because no one else on Earth will pay them to play soccer, telling them that they have to change the entire concept they invested all that time and money on.

Changing the way the league runs, to them, is tantamount to having the money they invested stolen. They wrote a check for a shoe store and then someone came along and said they now own a beauty parlor.

Well, as it happens, they don't want to start a new business. They like the one they have just fine, thanks.

If the Union wants a league that's run the way they want it run, then they'd better find some other guys to run it, because the current owners aren't going to do it just for the sake of keeping the games going.